It’s Monday! What Are You Reading

This week I read a late 1990’s verse novel on The Great Depression entitled “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse.  I’m really taking a liking to the verse novels that this class has introduced me to.  I’m drawn to their free verse and the ability to read through them in only a couple of hours while still gaining a valuable reading experience.  This book was no different.  It follows the life of the fictional character Billie Jo Kelby who lives with her parents in the panhandle of Oklahoma during The Dust Bowl.  Like all young adult novels the protagonist overcomes a certain aspect of guilt over something controllable or uncontrollable.  This book is tragic because Billy Jo ends up a being a major reason for the death of her mother and unborn baby.  The free verse certainly adds an element of juxtaposition to the death of the mother.  The verse can’t completely dive into and explain the shame and remorse, and the verse is short.  Because of this shortness it juxtaposes the complexities of death and personal guilt.  This young adult novel also offers a black and white aspect of personal redemption.  Is there any young adult book out there that doesn’t offer redemption?  If I had my grievance with young adult lit it would be the consistent happy endings.  But I say this and at the same time realize happy endings in young adult novels are arrived at by the long way home, so to speak.  There is always a major obstacle in the way before a protagonist can be redeemed.  Clearly the obstacle in this work by Hesse was the death of Billy Jo’s mother.  The Dust Bowl seemed like such a hopeless time for people everywhere in the states, and especially in the Midwest.  This verse novel by Karen Hesse is an outstanding piece of young adult literature that should inspire anyone who is quick to forget our Great Depression, and the lives affected by it.


Author: Zane Hesting

I am an education student at Chadron State College in Nebraska. My interests include fly fishing, reading books, watching movies, hanging out with family, and exploring.

4 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading”

  1. I’ve been looking for a good verse book. I’ll definitely add this to my list of books to read. Thank you for the review. I agree with you that most YA books have a happy ending. It’s not always realistic but I think at that age, you definitely need to believe in happy endings because life is confusing and often hard when you’re a teenager. So much is out of your control, and you’re figuring out who you are for the first time. I know I always found solace in the happy endings, or at least like you say, redemption. We all need that too from time to time. Thanks again for the review. I look foward to reading this book.


  2. The more I read this semester the more I see why young adult books need happy endings, or at the very least bittersweet endings. You are right by saying young adult readers need to cling to hope and promise at a young age. I have really enjoyed verse novels such as “Out of the Dust.”


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